Pacific Pearl has something for everyone. Daytime activities run the gamut from a martini mixology class and wine tastings to scrapbooking and ballroom dance classes. There are also karaoke, trivia and bingo almost every day somewhere onboard. On sea days especially, the daily itinerary is packed with interesting and fun things to do, and the outdoor big screen located on the pool deck forward is where you'll catch movies, full-length concerts or live sports, including rugby league and AFL during the season. The ship also broadcasts major international sporting events, such as the recent FIFA World Cup.
Evening entertainment is largely standard cruise ship fare, combining lively Broadway-style production shows with guest entertainers from the worlds of song, dance, magic and comedy. Impressive production shows, which run across the fleet, and are held in the Marquee theater. They include Pirates of the Pacific, a fast-paced, interactive show for all the family, taking you on a virtual pirate voyage, and DisConnected, featuring music from the past few decades and a story line about how communications drive our life.
Pacific Pearl's bars also have a variety of live music entertainment nightly. The highlight of the ship's performances, however, is Pacific Cirque, a highly talented young acrobatic troupe hailing from Colombia. They put on a show of juggling, fire eating and daring acrobatics, very much in the Cirque du Soleil style, which is spectacular, whether performed indoors and out. In fact, a special outdoor venue on Deck 12 was built especially for them.
Another popular entertainment feature of a P&O cruise is the theme night, such as island night, country and western night or '60's rock 'n' roll night. It's not only an excuse for passengers to dress up but also to get involved in a variety of fun activities, such as country and western line dancing, dressing up in Hawaiian shirts and sarongs and having their photographs taken in costume. P&O has expanded these to be featured on shorter cruises; dressing up is optional, and you can buy clothes and accessories from the onboard shops if you don't want to bring your own.
Also popular with many couples and families is a photo portrait; the ship has a dedicated photo studio, Expression. Theme cruises have also grown in popularity, usually two or three-day jaunts to nowhere with a focus on music, fitness, comedy, food and wine. They usually have a different program of activities and sometimes entertainment, such as boot camp classes or comedy workshops, as well as guest speakers and special presentations.
New to P&O is P&OEdge, dubbed the world's largest "adventure park at sea." Adrenaline-seekers will find a wide variety of options for fun, from climbing the aft funnel and laser tag to riding on the flying fox, which zips across the pool deck. Pacific Jewel was the first to be fitted with P&OEdge facilities; Pacific Dawn receives them in 2014, and Pacific Pearl will get them in 2015.
Pacific Pearl cruises from Sydney most of the year and from Auckland for two months. Her itineraries include themed cruises with focuses like food and wine or comedy. Passengers can also attend events like the Melbourne Cup. Cruises to Queensland, Moreton Island, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand and the South Pacific (including Fiji and Vanuatu) are also available.
Across the many ports of call the ship visits, there are plenty of excursion options available to suit all tastes, ages and fitness levels. In Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, you can take a half-day tour that includes a scenic drive along the northern coast and up slopes of Tovanumbati to the Volcanological Observatory; the mountain is one of eight active volcanoes in the Rabaul caldera. Meanwhile, on Moreton Island, you can ride an ATV Quad on the sand dunes.
Examples of other shore tour options include a snorkel day cruise from Port Denaru in Fiji, a visit to Matiu Somes Island and wildlife sanctuary from Wellington, and a ride on the Kuranda Scenic Railway from Cairns.
In the 2012 refurbishment, public areas were treated to a freshened look with new carpeting. The ship's central Atrium remains a major passenger hub, its decor with a focus on elegant earth tones. This is where you'll find reception and the shore excursion desk, and it's also a venue for art shows and other events.
The Dome doubles up as a lounge by day and a bar with dancing and entertainment at night. It's different from that found on sister ship Pacific Dawn. For one, it's a smaller and more intimate space with floor-to-ceiling windows, curtains rather than blinds, and a central dance floor, making it an ideal lounge for anyone looking for some daytime solace. The decor also has more purple and beige tones, but with enough zest to be able to transform successfully into a night spot after dark.
Deck 7 is where the main lounges and bars are located, including the Orient Pub. It specializes in whiskies and has traditional decor to match, featuring Chesterfield-style furniture, lashings of dark wood, sports memorabilia and dark red upholstery. Also on Deck 7 is Connexions, which doubles as a daytime and nighttime spot. It's a lovely, meandering space, featuring a combination of plush lounges, casual wicker chairs, stools at the bar and a stage for live performances. The color scheme is also easy on the eye: soft grey and purple, with touches of mauve and gold. On Deck 6 is Mix, which also leads a double life as a cafe and a bar, with highlights including ocean views by day and live piano music at night.
Other public areas include a small casino on Deck 5, with limited seating for anyone not in the mood to gamble, and The Lounge on Deck 8. It's also home to a small bank of computers if you need to stay in touch with the outside world. There are several time plans to choose from, starting at 100 minutes for A$55, or you can pay-as-you-go for A$0.75 a minute. The ship is meant to have Wi-Fi throughout, but The Lounge tends to be the best place for a decent signal if you're using your own device. There's no IT Manager onboard, though, if you have any issues. There is also a self-service laundry with coin-operated machines, irons and ironing boards located on Deck 10.
A collection of shops surround the Atrium on various levels, selling the usual fashion, jewelry (and the popular "inch of gold"), P&O memorabilia, and duty-free beauty products, perfume, alcohol and tobacco. A tech store offers a small selection of digital cameras, mp3 players and iPod accessories.
The main open deck, Deck 12, has two small square-shaped pools, each of which has a depth of 6 feet 3 inches (1.92 meters). On one side of the deck, the pool is open to everyone, and it's the location of the big screen and the stage for outdoor Pacific Cirque performances. The pool in the other half is for adults only, and it's attached to a bar, allowing for cooling swim-up drinks. Also on Deck 12 is a New Zealand Natural ice cream parlor, serving ice cream costing from A$4.50 a scoop. The Oasis is a separate, intimate outdoor retreat for adults only, located at the rear of the ship. It's a decent-sized space featuring luxury sun loungers, comfy couches and chairs for relaxing, fake plants for decoration, and a bar that's open all day. It also has two hot tubs.
The Aqua HealthSpaFitness Center has been rebuilt from the ground up to improve it aesthetically. It has a lovely color scheme of white and purple with warm wood and a brightly patterned carpet; highlights include a couple's treatment room with a shower and Jacuzzi, and a relaxation area with four recliners and silver detailing. The spa has a full-service menu of indulgent, if pricey, Elemis experiences, from massages and facials to acupuncture and teeth whitening. It's also the place to sign up for complimentary health seminars or fitness classes, some of which attract a fee. Pilates and yoga, for example, cost A$13 per person, per class, while a Boot Camp program will set you back A$55.
Deck 2 is also home to the large beauty salon, which shares the same decor as the spa and a small two-level gym in the center, with weight machines, free weights and cardio equipment including treadmills. The gym not only has no view and is somewhat stuffy, but its diminutive size also means it's particularly busy on sea days. There's a water fountain, however, and fresh towels are provided free of charge.
All three of P&O's ships are popular with families, largely due to the wide range of activities and age-specific clubs on offer for children. The minimum age to cruise is 12 months. Kid clubs are available on a first-come, first-served basis, however, so it's important that parents get in early to register them for participation, as there is limited capacity. During school holiday cruises, there can be up to 700 children onboard. Pacific Pearl's trained Youth Activity Team organizes all activities, and clubs stay open until 10 p.m. daily.
The clubs include Turtle Cove for ages 3 to 6, offering movies, cartoons, scavenger hunts, talent shows and disco nights, with arts and crafts for a fee. It also opens onto a delightful recreation area at the back of the ship, with a paddling pool, tricycles and a netted area for playing. The Shark Shack is the place for 7- to 10-year-olds, where they can enjoy a range of activities similar to those of their younger siblings, with the addition of PlayStation 2 and 3 competitions, an iPad activity program and more.
The teen hangouts are HQ for 11-to 14-year-olds and HQ+ for 15- to 17-year-olds, both offering a range of activities and entertainment like Stop Motion Pro filmmaking, Teen Jam music sessions, movies and dance classes for younger teens, as well as the addition of parties like Prom Night for older teens.
And for adults seeking some alone time late at night, group baby-sitting is available from 10:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at a cost of A$5 for one child per hour, with a second child costing an extra $2 per hour. Parents of kids aged 3 to 6 are given pagers, and they're encouraged to check on their kids regularly.